UPDATED 28 May 2014
* CLEAN CLOTHES CAMPAIGN Launches Facts behind Fashion:
Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) today launches a Review of its Urgent Appeal cases of 2013 and beginning of 2014.
The interactive map shows how Clean Clothes Campaign supports the survivors of the Rana Plaza and many other workers in their struggle for safer work, a living wage and freedom of association.
The Facts Behind Fashion review of 2013 presents the real stories from within the garment industry worldwide. Workers tell their own stories in videos and interviews and visitors can find out about the conditions in some of the factories where their clothes are being made.
The review gives an exclusive insight on how CCC works together with workers, local organisers and trade union leaders to stop violations of workers rights.
2013 witnessed the worst industrial disasters to hit the garment industry with 1138 garment workers losing their lives after being buried alive when the Rana Plaza building collapsed on them.
The review includes timelines – consisting reports, news articles, campaigns and videos – which follow the set-up of the Bangladesh Safety Agreement and Benetton’s failure to pay compensation in the Rana Plaza Trust Fund.
Workers also reached numerous victories.
After months of 24/7 protest in front of their closed factory, the workers of the Cambodian Kingsland factory were finally paid their legally owed payments in a historic settlement with H&M and Walmart.
In addition, more then 9000 Indian workers at 6 locations of the Gokaldas factory were paid their legally obliged dearness allowance after months of pressure from the local union, CCC and other international labour rights organisations. And the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity finally saw all charges against them dropped after years of heavy repression.
CCC took action on more than 30 urgent appeals to support workers in the garment industry throughout 2013. Dozens of companies were challenged to answer to the plight of the workers involved.
The maps and cases show the labour rights violations that CCC encountered in 2013, with a major focus on the tragedy of the collapse of the Rana plaza building and a detailed time line on the Cambodian wage struggle and cases CCC worked on in Cambodia.
Many of the urgent appeal cases that have been successful for workers locally also set precedents that have had a significant potential spill-over effect towards improvements on a larger scale: victories gave inspiration to workers facing similar issues in other workplaces.
20:37:34 local time PHILIPPINES
* PH workers lead intl protests for sacked electronics workers:
Workers led by national labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno headed international protests today for the reinstatement of 24 union officers who were illegally dismissed, as part of moves to bust the militant union, by NXP Semiconductors Cabuyao, Inc., one of the biggest electronics firms in the country.
Leading today’s Global Day of Action against union-busting and for higher wages and regular employment, KMU picketed the Philippine Economic Zone Authority’s main office in Pasay City and then held a caravan to Cabuyao, Laguna to hold a picket in front of the Light Industry and Science Park 1.
In Cabuyao, the protesters joined forces with the workers of Carina Apparel Incorporated, which illegally terminated 3,600 workers last February, and of Hoya Glass Disk Philippines, which illegally terminated 2,600 workers last April, at a rally condemning the companies’ union-busting drives.
19:37:34 local time VIET NAM
The Social Insurance Agency of Binh Duong Province has found itself having to pay social benefits to a record number of workers.
Mr. Bui Huu Phong, the director, said his agency is working with the riot-stricken firms to assist unemployment and social insurance beneficiaries.
Phong said that about 60,000 workers in Binh Duong are affected by the recent riots since their factories cannot resume operation immediately. Of these, 40,000 are considered eligible for unemployment benefits and 20,000 others will be paid one-time social benefits.
The official said that the agency had proposed that a doubling of the time for payment of unemployment benefits to the affected workers. “The workers will be paid unemployment benefits worth approximately 60% of salary,” he said.
Garment and textile exports jumped 21.3% in the first four months of this year, fetching nearly US$6 billion, according to Vietnam Customs statistics.
The US remained the largest market for Vietnamese garment and textiles, importing US$2.95 billion worth of the products, up 19.4% compared to the same period last year, accounting for 49% of the country’s total.
It was followed by the EU and Japan that purchased US$830 million and US$784 million respectively.
Most notably, Vietnamese garment exports to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) rose 131% to US$35.8 million.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade says there is ample room for future growth in Vietnamese exports to the UAE as its demand for textiles imports is approximately US$6 billion each year.
to read in BUSINESS IN BRIEF 28/5 (2nd item).
19:37:34 local time THAILAND
Over 300 workers have protested in front of the Asia Rose garment factory in Hlaingthayar industrial zone, after being expelled for demanding better wages.
20140526 * Joop and Tai released :
We have just had confirmation that Joop and Tai were released today.
Thank you very very much for your support – it is greatly appreciated by Somyot and his family
Free Somyot Campaign.
19:37:34 local time CAMBODIA
Major global clothing brands that source from Cambodia said Tuesday that supply disruptions and consumer reaction to the arrests, beatings and fatal shootings of garment workers could hurt future growth and put the country’s status as a “strategic sourcing market” at risk.
The stark warning from delegates representing 30 brands and trade unions visiting the country, including H&M and Levi’s, comes as factories claim that most brands have already started scaling back orders.
The brands and unions are in Cambodia to follow up on a visit they made in February, a month after military police shot dead at least five garment workers striking for higher wages. Twenty-three workers and activists were also arrested for allegedly turning the protests violent.
Representatives of the brands and unions met with the government’s top labor and commerce officials on Monday and warned in a joint statement Tuesday that the industry was at a tipping point.
“Due to reaction of consumers and the disruption to production and shipping caused by continued unrest, Cambodia was at risk of losing its status as a strategic sourcing market, with an impact on future investment and growth,” they said.
While trade union laws are typically written to expand organised labour rights, labour leaders said yesterday that they oppose portions of a new draft union law they believe will stifle their ability to organise.
Amid meetings they are having with the Ministry of Labour and industry officials today and Thursday, several union leaders said they oppose new additions to the draft law, a previous version of which was tabled in November 2011.
“It seems to lock many out from creating unions,” Pav Sina, president of the Collective Union of Movement of Workers, said.
If passed into law as written, the draft legislation would require at least 20 per cent of employees at a workplace to join a union for it to operate there. It also stipulates that only one union may exist per workplace.
Unions do not currently require a minimum number of members to set up in a single workplace, and there are no limits on the number of unions.
The rule could lead to wide-scale dominance of government-loyal unions and seriously hamper those that are independent, Cambodian Confederation of Unions president Rong Chhun said.
“I will demand that they change some points,” he said yesterday.
The government will host employers and union representatives Wednesday for the first round of consultations on the controversial Trade Union Law, which was shelved in 2011 and would in its current form impose increased restrictions on union registration, give the courts broad power to revoke union licenses and flout international labor conventions signed by Cambodia.
The latest version of the law, which was distributed to unions and employers on Tuesday in advance of Wednedsay’s tripartite meeting, includes an article that would require 20 percent of employees at an enterprise to join a union before it is allowed to register with the Ministry of Labor. In practice, the current Labor Law allows eight employees to form a union.
However, the draft does not include provisions that would allow the Ministry of Labor to suspend or revoke union registration, a measure that has been pushed by employers but vehemently opposed by labor organizations.
The law instead gives a yet-to-be-created labor court the authority to withdraw registration licenses from unions found to be in violation of the law.
The draft law, last revised by the Ministry of Labor on May 6, also ignores a host of suggestions made by the International Labor Organization (ILO) in February, when it was asked by the government to provide technical comments.
In a document signed by Cleopatra Doumbia-Henry, director of the ILO’s international labor standards department, the U.N.’s labor body takes issue with 27 of the draft law’s 91 articles, noting numerous potential violations of ILO conventions on the right to associate and organize.
The ILO’s criticism centers on provisions that give collective bargaining rights only to select unions, language that may lead to arbitrary decision-making by authorities and the courts, and overly high thresholds that would curtail the ability of workers to unionize, and of unions to form labor federations.
Global fashion brands and retailers have told the Cambodian government they are willing to accommodate any agreed minimum wage increase in their future purchasing from the country.
IndustriALL Global Union, together with eight international brands, including H&M, GAP, Puma, Levi’s and Inditex, met with the Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, four senior ministers and other government officials for talks at the Peace Palace in the capital Phnom Penh on Monday 26 May.
IndustriALL’s general secretary, Jyrki Raina, who also represented the ITUC and UNI Global Union at the meeting, said: For the first time global brands have acknowledged that they are prepared to cost in the price of higher salaries in Cambodia. The ball is now in the court of the government and factory owners to get round the table and agree on a new wage setting mechanism.
Cambodian garment unions are fighting to increase the minimum wage from US$100 to US160 per month.
IndustriALL and brands also called for clear timelines in relation to the new Trade Union law as well as the wage setting mechanism, as the government revealed that new research on the process will be released mid-June.
Unions and brands reiterated their desire for a positive future for the Cambodian garment sector, which employs around 500,000 people and generates revenues of US$ 5 billion a year. However, they warned that continued sourcing from the country would depend on stability, transparency, predictability and the rule of law.
One major clothing brand revealed that it had cut its sourcing from Cambodia by 50% in the past year due to concerns about political instability and human rights violations in the country.
Brands and unions also expressed their concerns that the trial of 23 protestors arrested during the January wage demonstrations must be based on evidence and stand up to international security.
There is a question mark over evidence of direct links to damage to property by the 23 detainees, while IndustriALL sources have cast serious doubts about the impartiality of judicial proceedings in their trial.
Furthermore, sources say the detainees are set to receive prison sentences of two to three years when they are sentenced on Friday 30 May.
* Arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of eight members of the Coalition of the Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU):
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Cambodia.
Brief description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) about the arbitrary arrest and judicial harassment of eight members of the Coalition of the Cambodian Apparel Workers’ Democratic Union (CCAWDU) in Bati district, Takeo province, during a strike to ask for better working conditions at the garment factory JSD Textile Co. Ltd Factory.
According to the information received, on May 23, 2014, at around 4 pm,Messrs. Seang Yot and Sot Seam, two CCAWDU members based in Phnom Penh, as well as Messrs. Phin Sot, Keo Bouen, No Sak, Ol Sam Oeun, Seng Soeun and Ms. Chhem Sreypov,six CCAWDU members based in Kandal province, were arrested by Takeo provincial police during a peaceful strike at the garment factory JSD Textile Co. Ltd Factory. The strikers were demanding better working conditions such as to provide 50% of salary and stipend for female workers who are on maternity leave, to use the National Social Security Fund in case of accident at work, to provide salary for sick workers, to stop using short-term contracts for workers, as well as to not discriminate workers who are members of the union.
The eight trade unionists were held at Takeo provincial police station without access to their lawyers until they were brought before Takeo Provincial Court for interrogation on May 24, 2014. They were then charged with “instigating a felony” (Article 28 of the Criminal Code), “incitement” (Article 495), “threats to cause damage” (Article 423) and “discrediting a judicial decision” (Article 523).
When lawyers and some representatives of non-governmental organisations requested access to the eight detainees in the police station and in the courthouse, armed security forces with barbed wire denied access to them.
The eight were released on bail on May 25, 2014 in the evening after the President of CCAWDU signed a letter guaranteeing that the eight would not cause trouble at the factory and present themselves when requested by the Prosecutor.
Please write to the authorities of Cambodia urging them to:
* Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Messrs. Seang Yot, Sot Seam, Phin Sot, Keo Bouen, No Sak, Ol Sam Oeun, Seng Soeun, and Ms. Chhem Sreypov, as well as of all human rights defenders in Cambodia;
* * Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Messrs. Seang Yot, Sot Seam, Phin Sot, Keo Bouen, No Sak, Ol Sam Oeun, Seng Soeun, and Ms. Chhem Sreypov, as well as against all human rights defenders in Cambodia, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their work without unjustified hindrance and fear of reprisal;
*** Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular:
its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;
and its Article 12.2 which states that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.
**** Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Cambodia.
* Brands back wage bump: unionist:
Major clothing-company representatives told high-ranking Cambodian officials yesterday that they would be willing to adjust their pricing structure to facilitate a minimum-wage hike, according to a member of a global union who was present for talks in Phnom Penh.
They also said that violent crackdowns on demonstrations and the ongoing detention of workers and unionists are affecting their image, according to Jyrki Raina, general secretary of IndustriALL Global Union.
“They talked about the increasing pressure from consumers, so the image is very important,” Raina said outside the room in the Peace Palace where he and representatives from four major brands aired their concerns. “Cambodia’s image got a bad hit in January when … workers were killed and many were arrested and injured.”
Yesterday’s meeting came ahead of a scheduled verdict on Friday in the case against 23 people arrested in early-January demonstrations, and after 17 union members were arrested while participating in strikes this month. Leaders of eight local labour unions – who were not invited to the roundtable discussion – released a statement yesterday demanding the release of the nine union members still being detained for the May protests in Kandal and Kampong Speu provinces.
After the meeting, Ministry of Labour spokesman Heng Sour said government officials had told the brands that enforcing Cambodian law is obligatory.
“We clearly explained to the international buyer representatives that the rule of law must be complied with in Cambodia,” said Sour, who named Puma, H&M, Gap Inc and Levi Strauss as brands that had representatives in the meeting. “The union [members] were charged by a judge, not because they participated in freedom of association, but they violated other laws.”
Brand officials refused to speak with reporters after the meeting, saying they would later release a joint statement. As of 10pm last night, the statement had not been distributed.
Sour said the company officials misunderstood the definition of minimum wage in the Kingdom.
“In our law mentioning minimum wage, we are not talking about a fair wage, we are not talking about a living wage,” Sour said.
* Brands, Unions Say Gov’t Moving Slowly on Wage Talk:
International union groups and some global clothing brands that buy from Cambodia told the government Monday that it was moving too slowly in coming up with a new minimum wage for garment workers and that one brand had already cut orders in half because of uncertain supplies.
Representatives from Gap, H&M, Levi’s and Puma all declined to comment as they left a one-and-a-half-hour meeting behind closed doors with the government’s top labor and commerce officials in Phnom Penh, which was a follow-up to a similar meeting in February.
Jyrki Raina, general secretary of the IndustriALL Global Union, said all brand representatives stressed that their continued business in Cambodia rested on the certainty of supplies, something they feared was at risk after months of strikes that have delayed some orders.
“All the brands who were present, they said that they need stability, that they need to be able to see what the future is. That was the clear message to the government,” Mr. Raina said.
A nationwide strike forced most garment factories to briefly shut down in late December and early January. Twenty-three men were recently put on trial for protests that turned violent on the final days of that strike, and 17 unionists have been arrested for taking part in strikes this month alone.
According to Mr. Raina, one of the brands at Monday’s meeting told the government that it had cut its orders back by about 50 percent this year because of uncertainty. He declined to identify the brand.
The latest round of strikes were triggered late last year by demands for a higher monthly minimum wage for garment workers, currently set at $100. The government has since started talks with the unions and employers to come up with a better way to set the figure.
* Cambodian officials meet with buyers from global brands on garment issues:
Cambodian officials, led by Permanent Deputy Prime Minister Keat Chhon, on Monday met with a 18-member delegation representing global brands and trade unions to discuss garment worker rights and wages.
It was the second round of talks between Cambodian government officials and representatives of major brands including H&M, Gap, Levi’s and Puma, as well as IndustriALL Global Union after a similar meeting held here in February.
Speaking to reporters after a two-hour closed-door meeting, Heng Sour, spokesman for the Ministry of Labor, said the meeting touched on the issues of minimum wages for workers, draft trade union law, and 23 labor activists and workers arrested during violent clashes in January.
“In the meeting, buyers called for the expedition of talks on minimum wages, urged for a draft trade union law by the end of this year, and wanted to see justice for the 23 detainees,” he said.
According to Heng Sour, buyers also warned to reduce purchase orders from Cambodia if uncertainty and unpredictability in the garment and footwear sector still persisted due to strikes for higher wages.
read more. & read more.
* “We’ve been worried for the workers. And they were also targeting the union: I received death threats and insults”:
Ath Thorn is the president of the Coalition of Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU)
“During the strike our office was blocked by 200 workers, who were paid by the owner to do so. We couldn’t enter or leave the building.
One woman who went to get some water was hit by a Taser (electroshock gun) from a Chinese supervisor and fainted. When workers tried to help her they were hit by stones thrown by the supervisor and a body guard from the factory owner.
One worker clashed with a security guard at the factory presmisses during one of the violent periods of the strikes. The guard took him to the director’s office, where they kept him and beat him up. It took the worker a week in hospital to recover.
* “The brands whose clothes I sew should be part of the solution. They can’t sit back while we lose our income.”:
“In 2009 we had a problem with the ventilation of the factory. There were no fans and it was hard to breathe. I went to talk to the floor manager and when that didn’t work I wrote a letter to the manager, with help of the union coalition C.CAWDU. After some negotiation the owner finally placed some fans. And in all it took two months.
During the conflict at SL Garment I acted as the spokesperson for the groups of workers demanding their rights. I would stand in the crowd, in front of the factory, with a megaphone, trying to neutralise the crowd and talk to them. When the police tried to stop the workers I talked to the cops.
One day we decided to go to the Prime Minister’s house to demand a solution. The police was in full force and I was talking over the megaphone again. A few of them came up to us; it was clear there were going to beat us up so I started running. I lost one shoe while running away but I didn’t care. I didn’t know if they were going to use plastic bullets again, so I just kept running.
* ‘Low wages and short-term contracts are like handcuffs’:
10 December 2013: Tola Moeun has just arrived in Phnom Penh after a ten-day march from the provinces.
This annual walk celebrates International Human Rights Day and creates space for dialogue for civil society groups, unions and other human rights groups. Since 2004, hundreds and later thousands of people have joined the 144-kilometre march, which arrives in the capital every year on the 10th of December.
Tola is head of the Labour Programme at the Community Legal Education Center (CLEC) which monitors labour rights and provides legal training, legal assistance and other capacity development and support for the communities. The Clean Clothes Campaign works together with CLEC on human rights violations in Cambodia.
“Workers in the garment industry are kept in slave-like working conditions by two handcuffs and one weapon. Two handcuffs: one is low pay. This makes us work hard and forces us to do overtime. It keeps us from staying home when we are ill or pregnant. The other handcuff is the short-term contract. You cannot take maternity leave, and it prevents workers from joining the union, because their contract will be terminated.
The weapon: that’s the violence. This can be physical violence or mental violence, such as verbal abuse and keeping information from the workers.”
* BetterFactories Media updates 23-26 May 2014, Stay away from factory, court tells unionists:
* to read in the printed edition The Phnom Penh Post:
* to read in the printed edition The Cambodia Daily:
2014-04-23 Court concludes two trials against 23 garment protesters
2014-04-23 Striking garment workers foil leaders’ arrest
2014-05-24-25 Gov’t officials prepare for second round of talks with brands
2014-05-24-25 More than 20 Caltex workers resume strike in Phnom Penh
2014-05-26 More unionists charged on eve of brand meeting
2014-05-26 Workers turn models on political catwalk
BetterFactories Media Updates Oveview here.
19:07:34 local time BURMA/MYANMAR
* Wundwin’s weaving industry in spotlight over pollution from dyes:
The clean-up effort is also to be reinforced by stricter penalties against companies that pollute the water.
The various proposals were outlined at a meeting on May 2 on practical technological assistance for removing the pollution, which threatens surrounding farmlands in Wundwin township, about 130 kilometres (80 miles) from Mandalay.
There are about 600 garment factories in Wundwin, the centre of production of Myanmar traditional wear, each using 10 or 12 looms. The township is home to about 70 percent of the country’s production.
“The basic colour of the fabric is black, so we have to dye it to the colour of choice. Dyeing is done according to a traditional formula, involving boiling the fabric, beating it manually and soaking it in cold water. It wastes gallons of water,” said Wundwin businessman U Win Maung.
The solutions proposed involved treating the polluted water with alum before passing it through a series of pools, or physically transporting the water to a processing factory for cleansing. The first two are for relatively small volumes of water, and the third is said to be very expensive.
18:37:34 local time BANGLADESH
HRW tells government
Human Rights Watch today called upon Bangladesh government to make public the findings of its safety inspections at garment factories.
Reports should be published in Bangla as well as English so that they are accessible to workers, the New-York base rights organisation said in a report.
“Efforts to make the Bangladesh garment industry safer and protect the rights of workers will not succeed unless details of all factory inspections are made public,” said Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director.
“Workers need this information so they can make informed decisions about whether it is safe to enter their factories,” he said.
The report said the government and retailers have largely failed to make public the findings of the inspections ordered after the Rana Plaza catastrophe.
read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
Bangladesh government and retailers have largely failed to make public the findings of factory safety inspections ordered after the April 2013 Rana Plaza catastrophe that killed and injured several thousand workers, Human Rights Watch said today.
Reports should be published in Bangla as well as English so that they are accessible to workers.
In the aftermath of the Rana Plaza collapse, the Bangladesh government and retailers entered into several different agreements to ensure workplace safety for workers. The Bangladesh government is responsible for inspecting about 1,500 factories, many of which do sub-contracting work. Some are in shared buildings and are believed by experts to be the most at risk.
In a program supported by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and funded by the European Union, the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) staff have already inspected more than 250 of these factories.
The government and ILO have set up a website to publish the inspection data, but to date nothing has been published. A spokesman for the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments said no decision had yet been taken on when the results of the investigations by BUET would be made public.
The Accord has geared up efforts to include local apparel sector representatives in its advisory board for successfully executing its long-term initiatives mainly for the ongoing RMG factory inspection programmes, sources said.
Leaders of the apex apparel bodies-BGMEA and BKMEA-are still firm not to join the Accord’s Advisory Board (AB), as they believe that the Board is not an effective decision-making one.
Rather, the leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) prefer joining the Accord’s Steering Committee (SC), the sector insiders said.
Keeping this in view, members of the Accord Advisory Board during its first meeting, held last month in Dhaka, stressed the need for ‘redouble efforts’ to secure active membership of BGMEA and BKMEA in the Board.
“Secure the active membership of BGMEA and BKMEA as important national elements to the permanent success of the Accord,” stated the Accord AB meeting report, published on its website early this month.
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed on Tuesday said global buyers of readymade garments (RMG) have started rethinking of Bangladesh with a positive attitude after the progress made in the industry over the last one year.
“All are thinking of Bangladesh afresh with a positive outlook. No one is telling anything negative. Many countries are showing interest in doing business with Bangladesh,” he told reporters at a press conference at Ruposhi Bangla hotel in the city.
read more. & to read.
Business as Usual Is Not an Option: Supply Chains and Sourcing after Rana Plaza……
report makes two key misstatements about the Accord…which lead both to faulty recommendations and to the erroneous conclusion that the Accord and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety are similar agreements…
Report claims that the Accord does not cover factories which are not in a direct sourcing relationship with the brands…
Second…the authors assert that the Accord creates no obligation for signatory brands to assist factory owners with the cost of safety renovations and, for all practical purposes, “puts the burden of repair on factory owners…these claims are simply untrue…
Report also concludes, erroneously, that the biggest safety risk to workers in Bangladesh is at smaller subcontract factories that have escaped the auditing programs of brands and retailers…
This is a major error and it leads to dangerously misguided recommendations…
OHSAS 18001 is internationally accepted as a method of assessing and auditing occupational health and safety management systems
A healthy workplace and workforce are very important for portraying a better image of the industry, Danish Ambassador Hanna Fugl Eskjær said yesterday.
Addressing a seminar “Occupational Health and Safety Impact 99% – Together We Can Change” organised by Western Marine Shipyard (WMShL) and GIZ, the German Development Cooperation at Rupashi Bangla hotel in the capital, she said: “Health and safety of workers is a prime concern which must be brought under consideration by the society.
And I am hopeful when industries in the country will follow Western Marine in this respect it will make a great change in Bangladesh which shall take the country one step forward toward progress.”
Other speakers said the GIZ supported the WMShL to implement and attain a renowned international standard in workplace health and safety. The WMShL is the first shipyard, and one of the few businesses in Bangladesh to obtain OHSAS 18001 status.
State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Haque Chunnu said Tuesday that misunderstanding between owners and workers hampers formation of trade unions.
“The factory owners think that they would face problems due to the formation of trade unions in their factories. And the labour leaders think that they will be empowered by the trade union,” Chunnu said.
They have no idea about trade union. The main objective of trade union is to create good relationship between factory owners and workers, he added.
The state minister came up with the observation while addressing a seminar on “Occupational Health and Safety (OHS): Impact 99 per cent-Together We Can Change” at a city hotel.
The State Minister said, “We are only talking about the occupation and health safety (OHS) of workers of readymade garment and shipbuilding industry. But we do not consider the OHS of workers of other sectors like agriculture, housemaids, motor and welding sector”.
Dutch minister to woo brands on compensation
Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed Tuesday said the government was going to further reduce tariffs on fire and structural safety products imported to Bangladesh in the ensuing budget for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014-2015.
“The government will remove import taxes on fire and structural safety products in the upcoming budget so that entrepreneurs can import those goods to ensure safety in the factories,” he said replying to a question at a joint press conference held at a city hotel.
In the outgoing budget, import duty on fire safety equipment has been lowered to 5 per cent from the existing 10 to 15 per cent, with a view to ensuring fire safety in the ready-made garment (RMG) units.
“There is a global standard that 2 per cent factories remain vulnerable in any country, and in our country the number is less than 2 per cent which certainly proves we are in a better position,” he said.
He added the rest of the labour inspectors would be recruited with utmost priority through a fast-track process.
The visiting Dutch minister said she would take initiatives and hold discussion with European Union partners and brands so that the brands left out join the compensation process.
“In the coming weeks we’ll make an analysis of the exact situation, and you’ll see some actions in coming weeks or months,” she said while replying to a question whether the Accord platform would join the compensation process.
The slow progress in disbursing compensation to Rana Plaza victims due to fund shortage ‘overshadows’ all the ‘good things’ happening in Bangladesh’s readymade garment industry, says a visiting Dutch Minister here on Tuesday.
“In the coming weeks we’ll make an analysis on what situation exactly is…so, you’ll see some actions in coming weeks or months,” Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilianne Ploumen told reporters at a press conference.
She said they would interact with stakeholders and meet her European Union (EU) colleagues to see what they can do jointly to reach out to the companies that have not or sufficiently pledged fund and encourage them to do so.
read more.& read more. & read more. & read more. & read more. & read more.
The government should be pro-active in providing land to help the industry invest for future growth
Reports to the parliamentary standing committee on the labour ministry indicate around 11,000 workers at 16 factories have lost their jobs so far following government safety inspections.
With inspections continuing by the Accord and Alliance, industry sources privately fear that many more, possibly hundreds, of factories may be found unsafe and forced to close.
The outlook for workers is bleak as factory owners are focusing on retrenchment of jobs in order to pay for the cost of building and safety improvements.
In principle, long-term co-operation between buyers and factory owners may well help bring new investment and better factories offering more secure jobs.
Outgoing US Ambassador to Dhaka Dan W Mozena opined that the main issue is full reformation and safety of readymade garments of Bangladesh, not getting generalized system of preference (GSP) back.
The envoy came up with the observation at a press briefing at Netrokona Circuit House on Tuesday morning.
He said that cautions have to take during building construction. Fire fighting systems have to ensure in every factories and then Bangladesh garment industry will become an attractive brand.
Speakers at a seminar projected on Monday the footwear industry to attain the status the readymade garment (RMG) industry has gained as its export has been growing on an average by 25 per cent over the last 20 years.
They criticised the present tariff regime which, they said, is not only anti-export but also discourages manufacturing of intermediate goods. They identified foreign direct investment (FDI) as a critical issue for export diversification.
They stressed on liberalisation of tariff regime on non-RMG products having small export share which will ultimately encourage the exporters to expand export markets.
Their observations came at a dissemination seminar on ‘Reducing Vulnerability:
The Export Diversification Challenges in Bangladesh’.
Rise in export of leather and leather goods to the tune of more than 1.0 billion in ten months of the current fiscal is a clear reflection of the potential the country’s leather sector holds for the economy.
The forecast often made about the prospects of Bangladesh’s leather industry as only next to that of readymade garments (RMG) has so far remained largely shrouded in unfulfilled expectations. Still, experts and researchers tend to see Bangladesh’s emergence as a major leather producer as almost inevitable – a matter of time — given the realities determining the future of the $230 billion global leather market.
Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) data show export of leather and leather goods during the July-April period of the current financial year reached $ 1.06 billion, a record rise in the performance of this sector. Export in the preceding year (July-June 2012-13) amounted to $981 million.
The government has decided to offload, at least, 49 per cent stakes of each of the 26 state-owned jute mills in the capital market soon, a top official of the Ministry of Textiles & Jute said.
Finance Minister AMA Muhith has already approved the move of offloading the shares of the state-owned jute mills.
Sources at the Ministry of Textiles & Jute (MoT&J) said the ministry in a meeting held on May 8, 2014 decided to turn Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation (BJMC) into a holding company and then offloading at least 49 per cent of the stakes of the mills in the capital market.
* RMG workers demonstrate for arrears in Ctg:
Workers of Beau Monde Garments Ltd in Chittagong city demonstrated on the factory premises yesterday demanding arrears of the last two months.
Around 1,300 workers of the factory at Alanker in Pahartali thana started demonstrating around 11:00am as the authorities did not pay them the arrears that they earlier promised to clear yesterday.
The authorities once before had given them a date, May 22, for the payment, said Nasima Begum, a worker.
Some of the agitated workers hurled brick-bats towards the factory building, said police.
The workers said some of them were injured by brick-bats which some agitated workers tried to throw towards the factory building.
They also said police, who were called by the authorities, baton-charged them as they tried to take to the streets.
However, denying the allegation, police said they only restricted them on the premises.
The workers calmed down and left after the factory owner, Syed Ahasanul Haque Shameem, assured them of clearing all the dues on Thursday.
* RMG workers stage demo for due wages in Chittagong:
The workers, however, withdrew their demonstration around 4pm as the factory’s owner assured payment by Thursday
Workers of a ready-made garment factory in Chittagong took to the streets demanding their due pay in the city’s Sagarika Road yesterday afternoon.
While demonstrating, the agitated workers vandalised the insides of BO Monde Garments Ltd as well as two vehicles on the street. They also attempted to block the road, but were thwarted by the Industrial and Pahartoli police who took control of the situation within an hour.
The workers, however, withdrew their demonstration around 4pm as the factory’s owner assured payment by Thursday.
Inspector Arifur Rahman of Industrial Police (Intelligence) in Chittagong said the workers started demonstrating yesterday in and out of the factory as the factory owner failed to pay their due wages despite repeated requests, as they had been unpaid since April.
* Workers of Bimond Group Garments staged a demonstration:
Workers of Bimond Group Garments staged a demonstration at Alankar Morh in Chittagong Monday demanding payment of wage arrears.— Focus Bangla Photo
* Accord, Alliance under fire:
State Minister for Labour and Employment Mujibul Hoque Chunnu came down heavily on Accord and Alliance Monday for their ‘arbitrary’ decision to suspend factory production under the ongoing inspection programmes.
The state minister said suspension of production in apparel factories has already caused a significant number of job-cut which could spark a fresh protest in the country’s readymade garment (RMG) sector.
“We’re under tremendous pressure following closure of a good number of factories due to their ongoing inspection programmes. If the situation continues until Ramadan, it could lead to a widespread protest in the garment industry,” he said while speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural session of a day-long workshop on occupational safety and health in the industry.
The ministry of labour and employment and ILO (International Labour Organization) jointly organised the workshop titled ‘Managing Occupational Safety and Health at Workplace in garment industry’ at a city hotel on the day.
Mr. Chunnu said the government made many changes in the country’s existing Labour Act to ensure workplace safety in the country’s all industrial sectors, including the RMG.
* Minister blasts foreign retailers for closing RMG factories:
Fears labour unrest before Eid
State minister for labour and employment Mujibul Hoque Chunnu yesterday came down heavily on two foreign retailer groups — the Accord and Alliance — for closing down readymade garment (RMG) factories indiscriminately.
“Many factories were closed down in the last couple of months, making a large number of workers unemployed, in the name of factory inspection by the foreign retailer groups,” said the minister.
“If this trend of continues, it may cause a massive labour unrest even before the upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr,” Chunnu expressed his apprehension while addressing a workshop titled “Managing Occupational Safety and Health at Workplace in the RMG Industries” at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in the capital on Monday.
The two unions of foreign retailers, the North American Accord and the EU led Alliance, began inspection of RMG factories in early March this year, as part of their programme to ensure fire safety and other compliance issues. So far a total of 19 RMG factories were closed down because of the inspection, leaving some 14,000 workers jobless.
The workshop was jointly organised by the Ministry of Labour and Employment and International Labour Organisation under the programme ‘Improving Working Conditions in the RMG sector.’
* Minister fears labour unrest over RMG factory closure:
State minister for labour and employment Md Mujibul Haque on Monday feared labour unrest ahead of Ramadan as the factory inspection by global retailer groups were leading to shut down of garment units leaving thousands of workers jobless.
Mujibul expressed his dissatisfaction over the Accord and Alliance, the retailers’ platforms of European Union and North America, for shutting garment factories and said, ‘We also do not want to see the repetition of Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana Plaza building collapse but it is unfortunate that factories have been closed in the name of safety inspection.’
* Labour unrest feared if closures continue:
‘Workplace safety and job security are equally important and must be considered as basic rights of the workers,’ he said
Labour and Employment Minister Mujibul Haque Chunnu has expressed concerns over the RMG factory closures and feared that it might spark labour unrest ahead of Ramadan.
He said workplace safety and job security are equally important and must be considered as basic rights of the workers.
“Safety is a basic right, but it cannot be done making workers jobless,” the sate minister said while addressing a workshop on managing occupational safety and health.
He even raised questions about experience and qualification of the engineers employed by the Accord to inspect factories.
The workshop was jointly organised by Bangladesh government and International Labour Organisation (ILO), which was aimed at raising awareness about the issue in the garment factories to reduce risk of accidents.
“Thousands of RMG workers lost their jobs after safety shortfalls were unearthed,” Mujibul Haque mentioned hinting at the Accord and Alliance inspections.
Besides, factories are witnessing decline in orders from international buyers, leaving the owners at the risk of facing further shutdowns, he said.
* Govt urges Accord to compensate workers during production halt:
The government has formally requested the Accord to share the workers’ payment with the factory owners during closure of any garment factory after inspection, sources said.
Appreciating the Accord’s contribution to improve workplace safety in Bangladesh’s garment industry, Labour Ministry sent Monday a letter to the Accord, requesting the platform of more than 150 global apparel companies, brands, retailers and trade unions, to pay wages for at least three months.
“It is very crucial for the Accord to consider the issues arising out of factory closures as part of remediation process and share with the factory owners the cost to pay wages to the workers during the closure period,” the letter said explaining the present scenario of the post inspection period
“For the greater interest of the workers, completion of the inspection as per schedule and payment of at least three months wages during closure of factories may be one idea,” it said.
“It is noted that there is lack of effective support to remediation including payment of wages to the workers who are facing unemployment as a result of temporary closure of factories after inspection,” the letter said.
In some cases, the workers and employers are not even getting 24-hour notice to close factories and there are no preparations to handle the workers’ aspirations and genuine concern, it said adding this is causing tension among workers, leading to negative public opinion about the inspection process.
Some factory owners whose factories are getting closed within twelve hours after inspections may be facing genuine difficulties in arranging wages immediately and the closing of factories is compounding the problems as workers are getting impatient and wanted payment, it noted.
* Textile tech business centre launched:
A Textile Technology Business Centre (TTBC) was launched yesterday to assist the textile industry to adopt resource efficiency measures in managing waste and ground water.
Lilianne Ploumen, foreign trade and development cooperation minister of the Netherlands, launched the centre at the Netherlands embassy in Dhaka.
The centre was set up by Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association with support from the Netherlands embassy, International Finance Corporation, and Partnership for Cleaner Textiles (PaCT). It will be functional from June 15.
TTBC will support the textiles sector in adopting the best practices and technologies that improve business and environmental sustainability, said Shahidullah Azim, vice-president of BGMEA.
The centre will collect, analyse, translate, and share guidance on practical implementation of cleaner production, occupational health and safety, water sanitation and hygiene, and effluent treatment plants, according to the PaCT website.
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* Bangladesh must sell clean clothes, not dirty ones:
German ambassador says as parting advice
The country will have to focus on quality and not quantity if it wants to become an emerging economic power, said German Ambassador Albrecht Conze yesterday.
“Bangladesh has enormous capacity to react for the better. If you continue in the vein you will jump on quality. That will be your cutting edge because you still have affordable wages.”
The outgoing German ambassador spoke to The Daily Star at a farewell lunch organised in his honour by Bangladesh German Chamber of Commerce and Industry at the Westin in Dhaka.
Conze spoke at lengths about the twin disasters of Rana Plaza and Tazreen fire and the lessons learnt from it.
“You reacted because you had to react. But more and more leading businesses have understood this was the chance for Bangladesh to move to a higher degree of quality.”
After Rana Plaza, the society has adapted to the new situation, and more and more people have understood, particularly in the private sector, that they have to take up the challenge of improving the quality of factories as a first step, he said.
“And you did improve. Bangladesh needs to sell clean clothes, not dirty clothes.”
To have a garment factory that is certified by the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh or the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety is kind of a trademark.
* Implement jute law right away: economist:
The government should immediately implement the law on the compulsory use of jute sacks to pack food items and agricultural produce in bids to revive demand for jute goods, a noted economist said yesterday.
“There will be huge domestic demand for jute goods if the country can implement the law properly,” said Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad, chairman of Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation.
Some opportunists are creating obstacles to implementing the law, he said at a workshop of Golden Fibre Project at The Daily Star Centre, organised by Traidcraft Exchange, a UK-based charity organisation.
Demand for jute and jute goods will rise significantly as it is environment-friendly and bio-degradable, he added.
Ahmad urged jute farmers to form an association to place their demands with the government. “Jute growers should unite to get fair prices for the produce.”
18:07:34 local time INDIA
Exports of leather and leather products increased by 19 per cent to $5.95 billion in 2013-14 from $4.95 million in 2012-13.However, the Council for Leather Exports has reported exports of $5.90 billion for 2013-14 against $5 billion in the previous year.
In rupee terms, exports improved by 31 per cent to Rs.35,748 crore during the period under reference from Rs.27,288.88 crore.
In all products segment, shipments alsoshowed a positive growth (both in dollar and rupee terms).
Exports of different categories of footwear were the major foreign exchange earner (43 per cent), followed by leather goods and accessories (23 per cent), finished leather (22 per cent) and leather garments (10 per cent). According to official sources, though leather and leather products were exported to more than 28 countries, Germany accounted for 12.92 per cent, followed by the United States (11.32 per cent), the U.K. (11.20 per cent) and Italy 8.73 (per cent). However, Saudia Arabia registered a dip of 9 per cent in exports over the previous year and Denmark about 0.31 per cent.
18:07:34 local time SRI LANKA
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17:37:34 local time PAKISTAN
Chairman APTMA Punjab S M Tanveer has said that the strong fundamentals of textile industry need a stimulus plan for revival in order to ensure employment, export and investment in the country.
He said the energy-relating projects under the vision of Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif are highly appreciable but the majority of them are long-term solutions while the industry needs immediate relief.
He said the Punjab-based textile industry is becoming unviable to compete domestically as well as internationally due to the absence of level-playing field. The inter-province disparity is energy supply has already resulted into partial as well as complete closure of about 100 textile mills in Punjab, he added.
Since the energy dependent spinning, weaving and organised processing industries are short of energy supplies therefore the whole of the textile industry supply chain is in disarray, impacting negatively on growth of value-added sector, he added further. S M Tanveer said the sustainability issue has halted the growth of Punjab-based textile industry altogether.
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Pakistans textile may have increased 6.5 percent year on year during 10M FY14 but month-on-month figures showed a drop of nearly 15 percent in April 2014.
The month on month comes as a consequence of negative growth in quantities exported across the majority of textile categories.
Unprecedented fall in textile exports, according to the member of Pakistan Textile Exporters Association (PTEA), is attributable to the fact that Punjab-based textile mills are suffering from 8 hours a day of electricity outages and 16 hours a day of gas load shedding.
In addition to that, textile mills in Punjab have been strained with Rs80 billion additional costs per year because of tariff differential, as the industrial tariff last year increased to Rs9 to Rs14.5 per unit, whereas in other provinces it is Rs7 per unit.
Pakistan Tanners Association’s (PTA) Chairman Fawad Jawed said here on Tuesday that a small support from the Ministry of Commerce could help boost leather products’ export to $3 billion in the next three years, making the industry second biggest after textile.
He said that contrary to the huge potential of leather products, exports of the leather industry had remained stagnant at $1.22 billion for the last six years.
He demanded of the government to impose a complete ban on the export of livestock. He also demanded of the government to include hides and skins in the 6th Schedule of Sales Tax Act 1990, besides reducing customs duty on basic leather chemicals.
Turkey will cooperate in the upgrading of textile curricula in addition to providing experts and master trainers to improve the overall skill and expertise of the Pakistani workforce. This was said by Turkish International Cooperation Agency (TIKA) Country Coordinator Pakistan Mustfa Giray Tezel while addressing members of the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry (FCCI).
Tezel said that TIKA was operating in more than 100 countries with 33 offices in 30 countries. “We are cooperating in the humanitarian and skill development sectors in order to improve the overall efficiency of friendly countries,” he said, adding that his recent visit to Faisalabad will help him understand grey areas where the textile industry requires necessary skills and expertise.
“We would arrange Turkish experts to impart training to the Pakistani workforce in order to fulfill the requirement of local industrial textile units especially those engaged in export to European countries,” he informed the audience.
* Revival of the football industry:
It is a matter of great pride for Pakistan that footballs made in Sialkot will again be used, although after a gap of several years, in the World Cup that kicks off in Brazil on June 12.
Pakistan is not a football-playing nation. Still, the balls hand-stitched in Sialkot are famous wherever the game is played because of their unbeatable quality.
Ever since the Tango ball made in this border city was first used in the 1982 World Cup in Madrid, Pakistan has supplied footballs for every major tournament played anywhere across the globe.
The football producers were, nonetheless, facing difficulties in maintaining their position as the top global suppliers in the sport ever since the world began switching over from hand-stitched to thermally bonded, machine-made balls in the early 2000s. The government did not help them to switch to the new technology.
Why would it?
The industry didn’t have the kind of political clout that big business does. But the good news is that many producers continued their efforts to bring in the new technology to compete with rivals like China and Thailand.
These efforts seem to have now borne fruit as Adidas has returned to the city to buy the balls for the world’s largest and most popular tournament.
* Textile Policy 2009-2014 review:
The textile industry of Pakistan has been for the past few years largely confronted with major challenges like energy crisis, dearth of value addition and branding, unskilled manpower, outdated textile machinery and overburdening of debts.
Keeping the view to the numerous problems being encountered by the textile industry, the previous PPP government announced the first ever five-year Textile Policy (2009-14) envisaging textile export target of $25 billion from $9.611 billion in 2008-09 and setting comprehensive measure to enhance textile production.
Seemingly, ambitious export target was fixed without giving due thought to the country’s historical performance, sluggish global and domestic business environment and threats from other competing nations as according to sources total textile exports reached no more than $14 billion mainly because the key initiatives of the policy are yet to be implemented.
* PHMEA organises fire safety training course:
The Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PHMEA) organised an intensive one-day training course on fire safety arrangements in industrial units at Faisalabad Garment City Company.
A large number of people responsible for firefighting arrangements in textile industries attended the course. The course aimed to enhance the level of expertise of professionals in the industry.
* Dastgir hints at new policy on cotton import from India:
Vowing not to do trade with India at the cost of farmers, ginners and industrialists, the Federal Commerce Minister, Khurram Dastgir Khan, has said that trade policies would be framed with the consent of all stakeholders.
He was talking to a delegation of Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) which called on him in Islamabad under the chairmanship of Mukhtar Ahmed Khan Baloch. The other members of the PCGA included Senior Vice Chairman Prem Chand Khiatani, Vice Chairman Aasim Saeed Sheikh and Shehzad Ali Khan. The minister also announced that a new policy would be framed on cotton import from India with the consent of all stake holders.
* People are priority: ‘Public schemes being completed expeditiously’:
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Sunday several public welfare projects were being completed ahead of schedule due to the good governance of the government.
“Transparency, high standards and speed are the hallmarks of these uplift projects,” he told a meeting that reviewed progress on various development projects.
Sharif said the foundation stone of Ruyi Masood Textile Industrial Park would be laid in Faisalabad on May 28 and that of two coal-fired power plants in Sahiwal on May 30. The plants, to be set up with the help of China, would generate 660 megawatts of electricity each.
He said the modern industrial park in Faisalabad would be completed with the cooperation of a Chinese group, Ruyi. The scheme would help contribute to the growth of textile and garment sectors, he said.
“The project will generate thousands of jobs and help increase export of textile products.”
Sharif said the Chinese group would also establish two coal-fired power plants of 150 megawatts in the industrial park spreading over more than 1,000 acres.
The chief minister said the Nandipur power project would be inaugurated on May 31; it would add 100 megawatts of electricity to the national grid in the first phase.